With several socio-political issues and conflicts happening in a country like ours, it is common for filmmakers to express their take on such issues. This serves as great cinema as well as addresses the bigger problem at hand. Here are six Malayalam films that fearlessly portrayed real-life socio-political conflicts.
NB: Warning, spoilers ahead
Pada is undoubtedly one of the most powerful films to come out of Mollywood in recent times. This Kamal KM directorial venture is a dramatic retelling of the real-life hostage crisis that happened in Palakkad. Four members of the Ayyankali Pada hold a Collector captive in order to repeal a law, affecting Adivasis, passed by the Kerala Legislative Assembly. The law was projected as a move that could benefit the Adivasis, however, it had a different story to tell.
Kamal KM and his vision for a historic event paved way for a powerful film that addresses why the Adivasis still remain downtrodden. The take by Kamal KM is fascinating, leaving a strong impact.
One topic that many individuals fear leaving a comment on, let alone in films, is the Hindu-Muslim divide in India. In light of this, we saw a bold Manu Warrier come up with a film called Kuruthi. The film centered around the violence and tensions that peaked among Hindus and Muslims due to the policies and acts of the government. The rock-solid script, which was clear in its ideology and brilliant making, made Kuruthi a film that will be remembered for ages.
Through the film, Manu Warrier states that extremism within religion is created when devotion and religious feelings become toxic in nature. Kuruthi is surely a film that was bold in portraying this sensitive topic with such finesse, yet stayed away from being embroiled in controversies.
Malik is not entirely a film that deals with a socio-political commentary, but the subplots do dive into several forgotten yet important conflicts. The film was developed around the issues between two towns, who have their main occupation as fishing, and the Beemapally shooting incident. Mahesh Narayanan fictionally recreates the controversial shooting as well as the conflicts between the Christian and Muslim communities in two villages. He doesn’t shy away from keeping the facts as realistic as possible, in order to make the commentary organic.
The way he executed the shoot out sequence is gritty and heart touching. However, it attracted a lot of criticism because it apparently whitewashed the current ruling party in Kerala. The concept of creative freedom wasn’t considered by the viewers. Ultimately, what Mahesh Narayanan wanted to convey through the adaptation of real-life events worked well to make Malik an example of fearless filmmaking.
Yet another Mahesh Narayanan directorial, his debut venture Take Off retells the rescue of 46 Indian nurses who were stranded in Iraq amidst a civil war between the Iraqi army and the ISIS terrorists. In this film, Mahesh Narayanan’s skilful making makes sure that the tension and fear that the nurses’ experience are conveyed to the viewers effectively.
He builds the narrative in such a way that we, as viewers, partially experience the trauma and stress the nurses go through while being stranded in a war struck zone. He also exposes how the Foreign Minister, Chief Minister of Kerala and several unnamed influential businessmen plays a pivotal role in rescuing the nurses safely. This depiction was not essentially fearless but was absolutely realistic and praiseworthy a step because not many dared to recreate such an inspiring real-life story.
Though it was excellent in all aspects, all praises were taken away by the Salman Khan starrer Tiger Zinda Hai because of its wider scale and reach. Take Off still remains a brilliantly told story of a socio-political conflict.
Left Right Left
Murali Gopy as a scriptwriter is perhaps the most undervalued asset in Mollywood. The nuanced way in which he incorporates social commentary in his scripts is a textbook example for budding writers. Left Right Left, which is arguably his best work, too, contains a socio-political commentary. The film showcases the adversity in communist ideologies and the evil way in which the communist party gains its votes. With several prominent characters resembling real-life communist leaders, the film faced several backlashes for its almost realistic depiction.
However, this doesn’t take away the fact that the director Arun Kumar Aravind was fearless in making such a film. The way in which he crafts this satirical film is simply fascinating and serves as a highly intriguing and thrilling watch.
Also Read: Revisiting Tiyaan: Should You Watch It?
Jana Gana Mana
The latest addition to the list of realistic socio-political drama films is this Dijo Jose Anthony directorial, written by Sharis Mohammad. As offered to viewers from its teaser and trailer, this movie is something that goes all in to criticize the system running the nation today and questions the same.
Sharis Mohammad incorporated several real-life incidents in the film such as the rape and murder of a lady doctor in Hyderabad, the subsequent encounters of the four accused, JNU protests, ABVP student volunteers beaten up by the police on their campus, Dalit students committing suicide following the pressure and taunts of the teaching staff and several other issues in such a nuanced manner. The character of Prithviraj acts as the mirror to society’s voice in the courtroom, where the questions are posed with no clear answers.
Jana Gana Mana is the biggest and most recent example of Malayalam films being fearless in their content and not shying away from dealing with controversial topics flawlessly.
These were some of my picks for the most fearless depiction of real-life socio-political conflicts in Malayalam movies. There definitely exist several other movies that have followed the same and executed the themes in a beautiful manner. Which other film do you think can make it to this list? Mention them in the comments below.